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Davids battle financial Goliaths in campaigns for statewide offices

LINCOLN—Three financially struggling Davids are pitted against well-heeled Goliaths in campaigns for governor, secretary of state and state auditor in next month’s elections. Candidates for the other two statewide offices—treasurer and attorney general—are running unopposed.

Reports filed with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission show that Republican candidates, led by incumbent Gov. Pete Ricketts, have outspent their Democratic challengers by nearly five to one, with GOP spending totaling more than $2.5 million compared to Democrats’ spending just over $508,000.

Here’s a snapshot of campaign finances based on reports filed with the commission. Reports are due 30 days before the election and again 10 days before the election, but most 10-day reports were not yet available by Oct. 27.


By early October, incumbent Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts reported spending $2.38 million on his reelection effort, and the filing reported he had more than $892,000 cash still on hand. Ricketts also loaned his campaign $930,000.

Ricketts reported at least eight individual donors who each gave his campaign $25,000 or more. Two of those, Karen Wright and Thomas Rastin of Mount Vernon, Ohio, each gave $50,000. Wright and Rastin are business executives and philanthropists who also have been major political donors.

Corporate donors to Ricketts’ campaign include Koch Industries of Wichita, Kansas. Owners Charles and David Koch are among the wealthiest individuals in the world and are known for making hefty donations to conservative causes.

In contrast to Ricketts’ campaign resources, Democratic challenger Bob Krist reported spending $454,787 on his campaign, with about $37,000 cash remaining by early October.

Major organizational donors to Krist’s campaign include the Nebraska State Education Association Political Action Committee (PAC), which gave $20,900, and Firefighters for Better Government, which contributed $13,400.

Secretary of State

Republican Bob Evnen of Lincoln, reported spending $124,673, with more than $85,000 cash on hand in early October. He also loaned his campaign $23,750.

Evnen received a $5,000 donation from Ricketts, and the biggest single organizational donor was the Nebraska Realtors PAC, which contributed $17,500.

Democrat Spencer Danner of Omaha, also running for the open secretary of state position, reported spending $46,789. He had just over $6,000 cash on hand.

Major donors to his campaign included Kathryn Weitz of Omaha, who gave $5,500. She is the founder of AdvoKatie, an organization that helps local nonprofits and advocacy organizations. AdvoKatie also gave $4,000 to Danner’s campaign.

State Auditor

Republican incumbent Charlie Janssen, a former state senator, reported spending $15,885 with more than $14,000 cash on hand, in his spending report filed 10 days before the election. The report showed he had loaned his campaign $59,500 and also made a cash contribution of $15,000.

Democrat Jane Skinner of Omaha reported spending $7,050 on her campaign against Janssen with just over $7,500 cash remaining in early October. She got an infusion of donations—three contributions of $2,000 each—on Sept. 16, after the Omaha World-Herald published an investigation that found Janssen was frequently spending long hours over lunch and into the afternoons at a Lincoln bar about a mile from the capitol.

State Treasurer

State Sen. John Murante of Gretna is running unopposed for the open treasurer’s position. He reported spending $220,255 by early October, with $47,657 cash still on hand. Ricketts was a major donor to his campaign, giving his fellow Republican $10,000.

Attorney General

Republican incumbent Doug Peterson, unopposed for reelection, spent $35,384 on his campaign, with $124,283 cash on hand in early October.

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